Sugar Hill: The dark history the 10 Freeway has to a historic Black community

Imagine Duke Ellington and Count Basie performing at the home of the very first Black woman to win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel. That was a reality decades ago at McDaniel’s home in a predominately Black neighborhood right in West Adams. The residents called it "Sugar Hill" in honor of the famous area in Harlem, New York. Those very residents had to fight in order to live in their homes and their fight helped changed an unjust rule in the entire nation.

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Silver Lake resident Ivan Houston says his grandfather, Norman Houston, was the first Black person to ever buy a home in West Adams, around 80 years ago. A number of prominent Black business owners, doctors, lawyers and famous actresses followed. This angered many of the existing white homeowners in the area.

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The white homeowners of West Adams had racist restrictions embedded into their property deeds, which banned the sale of homes in the area to Black residents. A court battle ensued.

The Black homeowners prevailed in court. NAACP lawyer Loren Miller successfully argued the racist property restrictions violated the 14th Amendment.

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Houston and his friends legally moved into their homes, only to soon have the neighborhood upended by the construction of the 10 Freeway.

"There is absolutely no question that it destroyed the neighborhood," Cal State Northridge professor Dr. Josh Sides said.

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